Carlton Ward Jr@carltonward

Photographer and Explorer @NatGeo | Focused on wild nature, often hidden in plain sight | #FloridaWild #PathofthePanther

www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2018/07/nice-shot-florida-panthers-animals/

544 posts 106,537 followers 483 following

Carlton Ward Jr

This #nationalwildlifeday I’d like to share a recent photo of Florida panther — our state animal that shows us what we need to do to save wild Florida. This frame was captured on Babcock Ranch using a custom made camera trap. I’ve been working in this area for two years for my #pathofthepanther project with @NatGeo @myfwc @fl_wildcorridor and recently @nature_org. A male panther like this one has a home range of 200 square miles — and area so large that outside of Big Cypress National Preserve multiple properties are usually required to support a single panther. That makes panthers perfect ambassadors for protecting the statewide network of public and private lands that makeup #FloridaWildlifeCorridor. And if we don’t protect the Corridor, panthers will not have access to enough of their historic habitat to recover to sustainable numbers. #panther #floridawild #keepflwild


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Carlton Ward Jr

The biggest benefit to chasing ghost orchids this summer has been spending a lot of time in the amazing flooded forests of the Fakahatchee Strand. I paddled into this pocket of watery wildness nearly weekly for the past three months to tend to camera traps pointed at ghost orchid blooms seeking to document the moths thought to pollinate the rare flowers. Thanks to @ktbryden for capturing this moment as we greeted the morning in a place that’s become a part of me over the past three years. And thanks to @warbonnetoutdoors for making the perfect jungle hammocks for this mission. With @torilinder. SUP by @yoloboard. Nimble paddle craft and bug proof hammocks open new possibilities for adventure in places with plenty of trees buy no dry land for miles. #swamp #chasingghosts #pathofthepanther @natgeo @insidenatgeo #Everglades #adventure #FloridaWild #KeepFLWild @fl_wildcorridor


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Carlton Ward Jr

The sunset was ridiculously beautifully last night after doing ghost orchid work in the Fakahatchee Stand. Childhood friend and fellow adventurer @zachashtons was just back from Cuba and able to join me. #shotoniphone #sunset #pathofthepanther #floridawild #keepflwild #pureflorida @pureflorida


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Carlton Ward Jr

The daring and nimble @ktbryden stuck a two footed landing in chest deep water and hardly broke composition despite her distracted pilot and a submerged log that did its best to take us out. And the camera was fine too! Thanks Katie and @torilinder for sharing this adventure in the swamp! #pathofthepanther #chasingghosts #everglades #floridawild #keepflwild @yoloboard


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Carlton Ward Jr

In a state whose original nature is being carved into smaller and smaller fragments, it gives me hope to know that Florida black bears like this beast are sloshing through the Everglades at this very moment, and that Florida seven bear populations spread from Naples to Pensacola can still be reconnected if we make it a priority to save the #FloridaWildlifeCorridor. It is easy to forget that the wildness of this swamp bear still survives amongst the relentless development that will cut off the Everglades from the rest of America if we let it. This camera trap photo was captured for my #pathofthepanther project with @natgeo. @insidenatgeo @natgeocreative @fl_wildcorridor @usfws @myfwc #floridawild #keepflwild #bear #everglades #explorersclubmember


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Carlton Ward Jr

In honor of #WorldElephantDay - a young forest elephant peers out from dense foliage in Gabon, a Central African country which protects some of the most expansive rainforests in the region. Working with biologists in Gabon helped me understand the importance or large landscape conservation and wildlife corridors for wide ranging wildlife. Gabon is also where I first met @jmichaelfay and the #Megatransect project he and @michaelnicknichols were doing for @thewcs and @natgeo, undoubtedly inspiring my work with the @fl_wildcorridor. Elephants across the world need our help. Please see the work of the organizations I’ve mentioned here plus @savetheelephants and @wildfoundation. Shot on assignment for @smithsonian in 2001. #Gabon #rainforest #biodiversity


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Carlton Ward Jr

I am thankful to have taken this young explorer to one of my favorite places this week. Almost 5, my oldest daughter Eldridge got to see a ghost orchid and build a fort in the canoe while I serviced my camera traps. I hope this 9th generation Floridian will grow into a future where wildness thrives in balance with humanity. That challenge is our responsibility today! #FloridaWild #KeepFLWild #pathofthepanther #chasingghosts #gratitude #Fakhatchee @fl_wildcorridor


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Carlton Ward Jr

Over the past year I’ve started incorporating video into my camera trapping efforts for the #PathofthePanther project. While I am still driven by the pursuit of decisive moments that still photographs provide, I have a growing appreciation for the power of video to give longer views and context for behavior. Here is a pair of clips from last month at @corkscrewswamp where the @audubonsociety has permitted me to deploy a camera system in the backcountry of their preserve. Although increasingly squeezed by development from Naples, this preserve protects habitat that allows the Florida panther population to welcome new generations. If we can protect the #FloridaWildlifeCorridor, it’s possible that a panther born at Corkscrew will one day cross the Caloosahatchee River to the north and help the endangered species recover into its historic territory throughout the Florida peninsula. The mother panther in this video is the same individual I witnessed with my own eyes and photographed a couple weeks before — perhaps the most memorable experience in my career as a conservation photographer. Click the link in my bio for the full story online @natgeo. And check out the work of my friend @macstonephoto who is doing some exciting camera trap work here at Corkscrew with @audubonsociety. @fl_wildcorridor #Florida #panther


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Carlton Ward Jr

It is an incredible feeling to look into the eyes of a bear at ground level in its habitat. This Florida black bear was one of the first I photographed while focusing on the research that ultimately inspired the #FloridaWildlifeCorridor campaign. I was following biologist Joe Guthrie (@joeguthrie8) on foot as he stalked towards this female bear with a dart rifle in a bay head forest on the Hendrie Ranch in Highlands County. The Highlands-Glades Bear Project was a collaboration between University of Kentucky and @ArchboldStation. Joe’s professor David Maehr, who was lost in a plane crash tracking a missing black bear with rancher Mason Smoak, often made the point that there would be no bears in that part of Florida without the proactive stewardship of ranchers. GPS tracking showed that bears traveled as far as 500 miles across a patchwork or ranches, groves and public preserves that keep the Northern Everglades connected for wide ranging wildlife. Through research, bears have shown us what we need to do to save the Corridor, and in that way are preparing the path of recovery for the Florida panther as it reclaims historic territory northwards out of the Everglades. #PathofthePanther @FL_WildCorridor #floridawild #keepflwild #bear #forest #conservation #florida #wildlife @myfwc @natgeo @insidenatgeo #pureflorida @pureflorida


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Carlton Ward Jr

Today is #NationalDayoftheCowboy in the United States. The cowboy image means different things to different people. For me, living and working in Florida, the first place in America to receive cattle from Spain in 1521, cattlemen and cattlewomen are heroes who are keepers of the last frontier for large landscape conservation in the east. Millions of acres of rangelands, particularly in south-central Florida, make up nearly half of the Florida Wildlife Corridor which keeps the vast public lands of the southern Everglades connected to the rest of the state and country. Suburban sprawl in Florida is consuming ranches and farms at a rate of 100,000 acres per year to accommodate 1,000 new residents who move here every day. Ranchers committed to their land and heritage are our best defense against development, and investing in conservation easements with these people is the best thing we can do to protect ranches, sustain the Everglades headwaters and save the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Bears and panthers need these ranches for their survival and in the big picture, so do we. Cattlemen and cattlewomen here are the reason we still have a chance. In this photo, my cousin Doyle Carlton III (left) and his son Dale (back right) drive cattle through a wet pasture on their Horse Creek Ranch near the Peace River in DeSoto County (east of Bradenton and Sararota). Dale and I are 8th generation Floridians with the same great grandfather. I am thankful that Dale is keeping our Florida heritage alive. #ranch #wetland @fl_wildcorridor #lastfrontier #conservation #cowboy @pureflorida @roamflorida @flcattlemen


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Carlton Ward Jr

Rise and shine. Last week @dre_jumper used his cow whip to call his dogs back to the cow pens during round up at the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Big Cypress Reservation. Seminoles trace heritage raising cattle in Florida back to the early 1700s and today manage one of the top ten cattle producing ranches in the United States. #pathofthepanther #floridawild #seminole #cowboy @fl_wildcorridor @flcattlemen #keepflwild


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Carlton Ward Jr

For the past two years I have been pursuing Florida panthers with camera traps — the only reliable method for photographing them. But two weeks ago, at Audubon's @CorkscrewSwamp, I had an encounter that I'll be talking about the rest of my life. I was driving into the backcountry and rounded a corner to see a panther sitting in the dirt road. I grabbed a telephoto lens and nervously snapped a few distant frames through the windshield before rolling a little closer and pulling off to the side. The panther was still 150 yards away in harsh 3 PM light. I was just watching when filmmaker Eric Bendick called. I whispered that I was staring at a real-life panther; the conference about our panther film would have to wait. Eric told me to take some video, and with the panther still sitting in the road in bad light, I complied, not realizing how jacked up I was until trying to hold my iPhone steady. After a few seconds of jittery self-narration, the panther started walking right towards me. When it sat back down in the road I resumed my video, but the panther started walking toward me again! I switched back to my main camera, put it in silent mode and held my breath. The panther kept coming, skirting the edge of the swamp behind grass and low palms. I let the shutter rip every time it revealed itself, coming closer with every step. Then it walked within 20 yards of my truck and sat down in an island of palms directly out my window! I filled the frame with its body and looked straight into its piercing eyes! I had mistaken it for a young male by its height, but was corrected when a ruffling in the palms transformed into a kitten. When the little guy got closer, its mother stood and continued down the road. Then they vanished into a thick hammock leaving me alone with my thoughts. When I went to change the batteries in my nearby camera trap, the process felt mechanical and empty. Remote cameras are invaluable, but it’s a whole different experience when the panther is looking right back at you. I am thankful @audubonsociety for protecting this place and giving me access their land. Please join me in following the #PathofthePanther for @natgeo. #floridawild #keepflwild


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